Imagine soaking in a hot tub, glass of wine in hand, with views of a pinot noir vineyard just steps away. That’s entirely possible at the newly renovated Vineyard Cottage — a quaint but luxuriously cozy and peaceful place to stay while wine touring along the Bear Creek Wine Trail in Southern Oregon.
The cottage is part of Weisinger Family Winery, the oldest and southernmost of 13 wineries on the trail, which spans 21 miles from Central Point at the north to Ashland at the south. The trail follows the path of Bear Creek, the 29-mile stream that drains the Rogue River into the fertile valley below.
You can experience the Bear Creek Wine Trail in a comfortable span of a few days, or pop into just a few tasting rooms on your next road trip to Southern Oregon. It’s part of Oregon’s southernmost — and also warmest and driest — winegrowing region, the Rogue Valley AVA, known to produce award-winning wines from pinot noir to gewurztraminer, tempranillo, malbec, viognier and more.
“I was a kid when my dad planted the grapes in 1978; I remember then wondering if my future would have anything to do with them,” says Eric Weisinger, owner and winemaker of Weisinger Family Winery. Fast-forward to 1988, when the winery did its first crush, then became the first tasting room to open in Ashland a year later, in 1989. After his father retired, Weisinger took over the business and works on-site every day.
It’s typical to see owners and winemakers involved in daily operations in Southern Oregon tasting rooms, Weisinger says: “You have wonderful Southern hospitality. When we have guests, they get to know who we are.” Here’s how to tour the Bear Creek Wine Trail, starting from the southernmost point.
Get your bearings at the Ashland Welcome Center before you hit up the cluster of five wineries on the trail, including Weisinger. Platt Anderson Cellars is smack-dab in the heart of downtown Ashland, located at the Ashland Art Center. Platt Anderson commissions their labels from local artists, with profiles of the artists on the back. Grizzly Peak Winery is situated on 40 acres just outside of downtown, with dramatic mountain views that are the setting for tastings, concerts and other events throughout the year. A couple miles north with views of the city, Pilot Rock and Mt. Ashland, Dana Campbell Vineyards features a menu paired with tasting flights, an outdoor fire pit and is an adults-only space for lounging. Looking for a little Old World charm? Sip wine paired with small plates at Belle Fiore Winery, amidst the grandeur of the French chateau-style tasting pavilion. When hunger calls during your vino touring, sample the wood-fired pizzas and Italian food at Pie + Vine downtown. The restaurant makes their dough from a 15-year-old starter and produces its own wine label in collaboration with Weisinger Family Winery.
Talent and Phoenix
Midway between Ashland and Medford, another wave of wineries is proud of its family roots and intimate settings. Paschal Winery is set on 22 acres of land in Talent, with panoramic views of the mountain ranges and a pet-friendly patio during the warm season. The staff may even play with and take care of your dog while you enjoy a tasting. Trium Wines, founded by three couples in 1990, features a modern tasting room in Talent with cheese and charcuterie plates and other nibbles. Aurora Vines is housed on 90 acres of terraced hillside in Talent, with sweeping valley views and a large, comfortable seating area inside and on the patio. StoneRiver Vineyard in Talent is located on one of Oregon’s earliest registered farms, with shuffleboard and other lawn games available for a relaxing family vibe. Pebblestone Cellars is another second-generation family business, proud to be located at the same parallel as regions of Spain and Southern France. Grab a satisfying breakfast scramble or sandwich at The Real Talent Cafe downtown or swing by Sweet Beet Station, a popular local food shop offering delicacies such as their rosemary red potato cakes and lox croissant sandwich.
Jacksonville, Medford and Central Point
The three northernmost wineries on the trail form an equidistant triangle, with less than 20 minutes of driving between each tasting room. DANCIN Vineyards in Jacksonville is known for their award-winning hospitality and food-pairing menu on stately grounds. RoxyAnn Winery in Medford holds the distinction of being owned and operated by a single family since 1908, with more than 120 acres of planted vineyards and pear orchards. Ledger David Cellars in Central Point produces red varietals as well as white (including chenin blanc, viognier, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc), which are less common in this region. It’s located next to the famous Rogue Creamery, which landed on the world stage recently after its blue cheese took the coveted title of “best cheese in the world” at the 2019 World Cheese Awards. Pick up a few wedges of your favorite organic, handcrafted blue cheese, cheddar or TouVelle for your next wine-country picnic.
If You Go:
- Purchase a Bear Creek Wine Trail passport at any of the wineries, which entitles you to free tastings at each of the 13.
- Know that wineries often have seasonal hours in the winter, so call ahead to confirm. Check weather and road conditions, and come prepared for spending time inside and outside, with layers and sturdy shoes. Check with each winery to see if children and pets are welcome.